Scuba Diving with Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation in Greece

by Tristan Richardson, Forensic Biology

The Forensic Biology degree program at Embry-Riddle contains coursework and skills that are relevant to a wide variety of fields, as I discovered this summer. I have considered many career paths during my time at this university, as the major is diverse in its applications.

This summer I decided to branch out into Marine Biology, as I have always had an interest in this field and have experience as a Scuba Diver. I knew that I would love to have an experience that was truly international, as I hope to someday work abroad. For these reasons, I chose to Intern with Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, located in the islands of Samos and Lipsi, Greece. This incredible location opened my eyes to the diversity of options completing field work and has helped me to narrow down my career path.

With this internship I was able to shadow and learn from graduate students from all over Europe, as well as work on my own long-term project. My project assisted with the recovery, protection, and replanting of the seagrass species Posidonia oceanica, an important environmental engineer. This project took nearly 2 months to complete, culminating in me leading the replanting action day with the assistance of 10 other interns and supervisors. With great autonomy, I could also assist with multiple other projects and surveys when my schedule allowed, including those regarding Environmental DNA, mapping of Pinna nobilis, and the impacts of microplastics. Filling out weekly reports and completing presentations for this internship also greatly prepared me for employment in the field.

All my coursework at Embry-Riddle assisted me with the completion of this internship. The knowledge of the research process and the understanding provided by the biology courses and technical report writing came into great use. Being able to use the knowledge one has learned in the classroom proved to be very rewarding. I am very happy with what I’ve done during this internship, and I believe this internship will greatly help me with upcoming classes, as I now have a greater background and expanded knowledge base with which to solve problems.

Rolenn Manufacturing Internship Inspecting Medical Devices

by Daisy Hatcher, Forensic Biology

This summer I interned at Rolenn Manufacturing, Inc. from May to July. Rolenn is a medical device manufacturing company that specializes in making parts for medical devices and implants. They work with many customers internationally making parts for devices that will eventually help save people’s lives. My role at Rolenn Manufacturing was an inspector. As an inspector, we have to inspect all the parts that are shipped by Rolenn. My specific role as an inspector was to inspect a part known as 60000591-001, known as 591’s for short. This part is extremely small, with a diameter of about 1.880 mm to 1.910 mm to be exact.

I also learned the process of the stages of inspection and how to fill out the related Quality Assurance paperwork. While I only did the final inspection for the parts at Rolenn, I did learn the overall process of production and inspection. I was trained and involved in the inspection and shipping part of the process. Inspection involved using a microscope and computer to measure dimensions of very small parts. Once the parts were inspected, they were cleaned and shipped with 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% deionized water. The parts were then weighed and averaged to make sure the correct amount was being packaged and sent to the customer.

To complete the process, the parts are shipped by the inspection department along with all the associated quality assurance paperwork. I learned that it takes many people and pieces of a puzzle to ft together to have this process run smoothly. The classes I have taken at Embry-Riddle really prepared me for work assignments. At Rolenn, we had to keep up with due dates which parts had to be shipped out. Organizational skills and rules I learned int he lab helped me to prepare for this internship.

My experience with the cooperative education/internship program at Embry-Riddle was great. All of the assignments made sure I was getting the most out of my internship experience and helped me along the way. The learning objectives we had to prepare beforehand were extremely helpful in guiding me in the direction I wanted to go throughout this internship. They allowed me to set goals that I wanted to achieve while interning and kept me accountable. The reports have allowed me to share what I have learned over the summer. I enjoyed everything that came with this internship and it showed me that I am more than ready to start a career working in a lab environment.

Internship at Lemuel Martinez’s 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office

by Dante Gurule, Forensic Biology

In the summer of May 2019 I interned at the Lemuel Martinez’s 13th Judicial District Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque, New Mexico. There is a DA office in each of the three counties including Sandoval, Cibola and Valencia. I worked for Sandoval County as it was the closest to my house. At the DA office there are many attorneys that work under Lemuel Martinez. These attorneys represent the State in criminal cases for all cases whether it be a felony or misdemeanor offense. During this internship I got to assist these attorneys with building case files, as well as observe them in both the District court, for felony offenses, and Magistrate court, for misdemeanor and below offenses. In preparing cases I would work with the different legal assistants and take on my own cases as I would prepare them for a variety of attorneys. Most cases I prepared were domestic violence cases including battery, deprivation of property, violation of restraining orders, etc.

The Sandoval District Attorney’s Office

The majority of my classes for my forensic biology degree did not provide much knowledge for this internship as my degree has a heavier emphasis on the sciences. However, the mock trials done in both my Instrument Analysis and Trace Evidence class as well as my Investigative Methods and Forensics Science class allowed me to understand the procedures and components of a trial. My Intro to US Legal System and US history classes gave me a good foundational understanding of our laws and constitution. I think it’s important to note I am yet to take the procedural law class for my degree which would have been very useful. I think my class work did show me the importance of forensics in law and how they coincide.

This internship was important for both my career and educational plans. After I graduate I plan to go to law school and this internship at the DA office not only introduced me to what Attorneys do but also allowed me to put my foot in the door to intern again with them while in Law School so I could get more hands on work with the Attorneys. This internship was overall a great experience and I am glad I got to work there.

The Magistrate Courthouse
Sandoval County District Court

International Internship with Vive Peru

The forensic biology program has so many possible career options, which may cause some difficulty in finding an internship if a career path is uncertain. Thankfully I have always known I wanted to work in the medical field so this was the perfect internship for me. My internship with Vive Peru combined my love of travel with my desire to learn more about the medical field. With this program, I was able to shadow doctors from several different specialties in multiple hospitals and clinics in Trujillo, Peru, assist with large medical campaigns, and volunteer in a small community adjacent to Trujillo.

Embry-Riddle Forensic Biology student travels to Peru to assist in vaccinations

Due to the nature of the program, shadowing doctors in hospitals in a foreign country, it was very structured and the only decisions I could make was which doctor I wanted to shadow that day. However, creativity could be used for the volunteer efforts. I could do all of the decision making for what activities we were going to do with the children we worked with, with only one constraint: the activity had to be related to public health. Due to the structure of the program, the learning objectives were set out for each of the hospitals we visited based on what the previous volunteers experienced in the past.

My microbiology course at ERAU was beyond helpful when working in the lab and explaining what was going on to my interpreter who did not understand any medical or biological sciences. I was able to point out differences between the way the labs run in Peru versus what we were taught in class. Many of the differences throughout the hospitals and clinics, not just in the labs, were due to lack of funding and supplies. It was definitely a culture shock to see the lack of sanitation and sterilization, but that only happened because they did not have enough supplies to use a new set of gloves or dental tools or even agar plates for each patient.

I am so grateful for this internship and opportunity. Peru was a beautiful place with beautiful people. The program does an amazing job of connecting volunteers with the community and making a real difference in the community. Many of the patients at the free medical campaigns said the only go see the doctors when these medical campaigns were held as they could not afford to see a doctor otherwise. The children in the community where I volunteered are so grateful for us and were so sad to see us leave. Learning about medicine and watching doctors work was amazing but seeing the change that my contribution made to the community was much more fulfilling.

Forensic Biology Student Madison Babione’s Internship at Desert Tox, LLC.

When I started in the forensic biology program at Embry-Riddle, I didn’t exactly know what direction I wanted to go in. Since the major is filled with many different paths including biology, chemistry and even law, I wanted to explore my options. To challenge myself, I looked for an internship involving chemistry because after taking 5 semesters of chemistry in the course of my undergraduate career, I felt like it would be beneficial for me to explore the field outside of the classroom.

After searching around, I was extremely lucky to have the opportunity to be an intern at Desert Tox LLC. This private drug testing laboratory was just what I was looking for.

My supervisor Mike was extremely open in allowing me to decide what I wanted to learn in this internship. With his help, we put together a list of objectives and before I knew it, my internship had started. I was able to observe drug sample collections, run validation studies and file reports, and see what it really took to run a successful lab.

I was very grateful for my chemistry background when coming into this internship. When I observed these tests and figured out how they worked, I was able to do further research on the exact mechanisms of detection that were being used and really understand not only what the machines were doing but what molecular mechanisms were at work. This was a really good feeling.

Student Madison Babione at her internship with Desert Tox, LLC.

This internship gave me a deeper understanding of not only chemistry but also one of the directions I could go in my career. It also helped me with my senior year biology classes because after learning what I did during my internship, it actually became extremely relevant in my senior year coursework. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to work there.

Playing in the Dirt

Stage One of making a fuse bead on the fusion machine – Heating

I rarely paid much attention to the concrete in my everyday life, except to determine whether or not it would be there to catch me if gravity decided to work. I knew that it came from a mixture of what I thought was dirt and water, and that it was used to build things like skyscrapers, bridges, and sidewalks. Little did I know that this “dirt” was actually cement, and that people’s lives depend on how well it was made.

One of the days I was particularly dirty from mixing cement samples for testing.

This summer, I had the incredible opportunity to work for a cement plant as a quality control intern, learning the chemical and physical components that goes into making cement. This internship was designed to further my knowledge in my degree program, forensic biology. Though the two seem unrelated, the education I received in my courses, both in the lab and in the classroom, proved invaluable to learning and utilizing the chemistry used to make cement. In return, working at a cement plant provided important lessons that I can apply for the rest of my life.

My first few weeks at the cement plant consisted of training and obtaining my miner’s certification through MSHA, the Mine Safety and Health Administration. I learned the layout of the plant, safety procedures, and how cement was made. This process has many steps, and each of these steps are tested and adjusted to ensure that the cement will be of good quality, as determined by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM).

Stage Two – Mixing

Stage Three – Setting Into Molds

The Final Product

There is physical testing, which requires making and testing concrete made from the cement, and chemical testing, which is done to check the actual composition of the cement. I mainly focused on the chemical testing. I learned how to manipulate various reactions to gather information, something I did in my chemistry courses at ERAU. These results were actually recorded and used, so I learned how important thoroughness and accuracy is in real-world applications.

The materials necessary throughout the cement making process

The heating tower viewed from the cement silo

I learned how to work in a professional environment, and how important it is to be able to critically think and solve problems. It was an experience I enjoyed!

My Internship at the Endophyte Service Lab at Oregon State University

My summer at the Endophyte Service Lab at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Oregon has been an enlightening and very knowledgeable experience. This opportunity has provided me with the experience to greatly increase my knowledge and understanding of skills in the areas of chemistry, toxicology, and teamwork, as well as closely relate to my future aspirations of becoming a forensic biologist.

Working with these professionals as well as other students who have common interests with me in achieving their goals has been extremely knowledgeable and eye-opening as to what my future career entails. I have learned many helpful lab skills and techniques that would relate to an actual forensic analyst’s career as well as how to use machines such as Mass Spectrometry and High-Performance Liquid Chromatography and Fluorescence, as well as extraction techniques and finally how to analyze the data they generate.

My job was to perform extractions of lolitrem B, ergovaline, and ergotamine mycotoxins from various grasses used for feeding livestock. The process for one extraction typically took about 3 hours and involved a lot of micropipetting, centrifugation, and drying of solvents on an N-Vap instrument. Measurements had to be extremely precise to obtain accurate results since it was on a microliter level. One tiny little air bubble could ruin the rest of the process and generate inaccurate results!

If it weren’t for the practice and knowledge I obtained from my courses at Embry-Riddle, such as Foundations of Biology 1 and 2, General Chemistry 1 and 2, Organic Chemistry 1 and 2, Microbiology, and Genetics, I would have never been prepared for the massive amounts of micropipetting I had to perform as well as any of the terminology or basic skills needed to achieve good results at my job. My courses gave me the confidence to be successful at the Endophyte Service Lab, and my experience in the lab gave me the confidence and knowledge to further pursue a forensic biology degree.

Forensic Biology Internship: My Summer of Corpses at a Coroner’s Office

Guest Blog by Rebecca Long and Danica Murphy, Juniors in Forensic Biology

IMG_6764 small“This morning we are going to examine a homicide victim,” Dr. Kurtzman said.  The victim had been dead four days; there was skin slippage, dried blood, a mutilated face, and forty-six stab wounds. This was the beginning of the second day of our internship. Yikes, how were we going to handle this? As forensic biology majors, we were encouraged to explore the different fields of forensics and we decided we both wanted to be forensic pathologists. This isn’t the type of profession that can be experienced through movies or textbooks. We needed to experience the sights, smells, and sounds of the dead. Much to our surprise, we both fell in love with the profession and this summer internship changed our lives in only six amazing weeks.

IMG_6581 As an undergraduate student having the opportunity to work in a coroner’s office is unheard of. As we started to explore our options for an internship we experienced several email responses that were polite, but very disappointing. Most of the responses simply said, “Sorry, we cannot accommodate undergraduate students because we have contracts with medical schools. Best of luck!” We went to Security and Intelligence Studies professor Dr. Bozeman discouraged by the responses. Dr. Bozeman said he would try and contact some of his old colleagues and see what he could find. He is a retired homicide detective and mentor for the ERAU AISOCC (American Investigative Society of Cold Cases) student chapter. Within a few weeks Dr. Bozeman had secured an opportunity of a life-time for the two of us!

 

Over the summer, we worked under the direction of Dr. Kurtzman at the Grand Junction, CO coroner’s office. In the six weeks we were there, We observed twenty-one autopsies that included natural deaths, accidental deaths, suicides and homicides. Our patients ranged in age from babies to elderly. The sights, sounds, and smells were like nothing we could ever describe or forget. The smell of gases inside a decaying body is worse than any form of rotten meat or milk we have ever experienced. The sounds a body makes post mortem are eerie and disturbing, and the actual process of the autopsy is much more bloody and unsettling than anything they show you on the television shows.

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Becca: I had worked as a volunteer in a hospital the summer before and during that experience I had the opportunity to observe a circumcision on a newborn baby.  I had no idea what to expect and from the combination of the blood, the scalpel and the baby screaming it really bothered me and I passed out. Super embarrassing!  However, with my autopsy experience I didn’t have any problems I’m happy to report.  I was concerned about it, but the dead never cry, complain, or respond to pain which is what I found difficult with the baby during the procedure.

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Danica: I had never seen a dead body before and was nervous for how I would react.  The first body was the toughest because all I could think about was how a person was lying there which ate me up inside. I had to learn to treat each body as a case and look for the reason why they passed away. Finding the cause of death would help doctors find what the major contributing factors to death are in different communities as well as provide answers to grieving families.

 

IMG_6638 smallAfter the six weeks of working at the morgue and falling in love with the field of forensic pathology, we were thankful for the classes we had taken to prepare us for the internship. These courses included anatomy & physiology, microbiology, and forensic investigation and techniques. Without these courses we would have been lost and confused during our work. The doctor spoke in a language unique to the field of medicine and the concepts we discussed were specific to information I had learned in these classes.

This internship provided us with so much more knowledge for the field of pathology and allowed us to find out if we were on the right career path. Dr. Kurtzman said on our first day with him that if he did his job correctly, we would both end up wanting to become forensic pathologists. After completing our internship, we can both agree he was right! We made so many memories in our short time in Grand Junction and we want everyone to be able to experience their dream career like we were able to do!

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